Associate Professor, History of Art
University of California, Irvine
“A History of the Picture as Box”
In his 1948 essay, “The Crisis of the Easel Picture,” Clement Greenberg described the illusion created by Western easel paintings not as a window onto a world but instead as a box-like cavity cut into the wall. This description seems particularly apt when it comes to late medieval and early Renaissance experiments with pictorial illusionism. My hope is that tracing something of this metaphor of the box (rather than the Albertian window) will give us purchase on certain overlooked aspects of modern easel paintings and their pre-modern precursors—to begin with, their more sepulchral aspects.